Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’d like to look at something that was sent to me by Ratio Christi on the topic of Paul. There is a web site that has the claim that Paul was the false teacher that Jesus warned about.
You would have thought the claim of Paul creating Christianity as it is today would have died out since E.P. Sanders gave it a death blow so long ago, but this is the internet. I am reminded of how Mark Twain is reported to have once said “When the world comes to an end, I want to be in Kentucky because everything happens twenty years later in Kentucky.” (No offense to my readers in Kentucky.) I think a similar saying could be “If you want to find a false teaching highly supported, find it on the internet because everything scholarship has refuted already takes fifty more years on the internet.”
The link to their site will be shown below.
Let’s look at their first argument made concerning 1 Cor. 4:16
Here Paul claims that HE, not “Christ” had “begotten you.” He “beseeches you” to be HIS followers, HIS imitators. The impostor claims are not made out rightly so as to astonish, but to subtly influence and brainwash the masses over a long term, strategic ministry of indoctrination (one which continued well on past 65 C.E.).
Swing and a miss here. Paul also claimed to be in a motherly position earlier giving them milk. It’s a metaphor. What does it mean to say he fathered them? It means he established the Corinthian church and he saw himself as responsible for their being united and a witness to the world. It is not at all taking the place of Christ.
Does he call them to be imitators of him? Yes he does. That was the typical way a rabbi, to which Paul was one, talked in those days. The students were to observe the rabbi and follow life as he did it. Paul says in Philippians however that he imitates Christ, the ultimate rabbi. Thus, Paul is telling them to imitate him as he imitates Christ, which is really placing a large responsibility on his head.
Hash, which is what we will call the site from here on, sees this as an ego trip, but there is no basis for that in Rabbinic thought. Rabbis were to live lives before their students in such a way that they would be ready examples to follow of being imitated. A little bit of study of the social context of 1 Corinthians and the Mediterranean culture would have gone a long way.
Moving on we see the following:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Paul says it is not really “him” that you see, the “he” was crucified, and it is “not I but Christ” living in his body. He is claiming that he is essentially Christ, and for this reason he is superior to all of Christ’s Disciples who opposed him at every turn.
One wonders just how much fail can be packed in an argument. No again. The Galatians knew that Jesus was crucified. They knew Paul wasn’t and they knew Paul had been in their midst. So what is Paul saying?
Paul is simply identifying himself with Christ as all Christians should. To become a Christian was to identify yourself with the carpenter from Nazareth. Which one? The one that was put on a cross under the curse of YHWH? Yep. The one that was given the death penalty for being treasonous to Rome? Yep. That was quite a claim to make.
For the ancient world, your identity came from who you identified with. As Don Matzat teaches in his book “Christ-Esteem” we have too much of a problem with self-esteem in our world. We need Christ-esteem. We need to find our identity in Christ and realize the good that we have is His good.
If one lives as if the Law is still the force that determines righteousness, then one is saying that Christ died for nothing. If one lives however knowing that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, then one lives knowing that they are righteous in Christ and not in the Law. Their righteousness comes from being identified with Christ.
Hash’s statement is simply wild speculation about Paul claiming to be superior to the other apostles. Do they have any scholarly sources that will say such a thing? Do they have a work such as Ken Bailey’s newest book, a look at 1 Corinthians from a Mediterranean perspective, or do they have the work of the context group with scholars like Pilch and Malina?
And some people wonder why I have such a problem with the idea that we need no study to understand the Bible….
Jesus’ Brother Yaqov or “James” is almost entirely written out of the picture, and is referred to in a butchered historical account of Acts (an account which is retold in original, more precise terms in the Dead Sea Scrolls), by a descriptive noun “Stephen” (`Atarah, or the “Crown”), rather than by his true name.
What is this source that Hash is using? We don’t know. He doesn’t say, but supposedly we are to believe that Stephen is not really a real person but is rather a made-up name for James. This despite the fact that Josephus tells us that it was after the death of Festus that James was stoned. This can be found in book 20 and chapter 9 of the Antiquities.
So upon what basis are we to believe that Stephen is really James? Beats me. Apparently, Hash thinks that asserting it is the case. Is it because both are killed by stoning? Then to reference what Chesterton said in “The Everlasting Man”, we might as well think the baptism of John and the great flood are the same event. Both of them have people going underwater.
However, neither the censored Gospel accounts – relegated to the “Apocryphal works” that didn’t make the Council of Nicea’s “cut” in 325 C.E. – nor the “early Church fathers” were silent in regards to James and this outright war on Paul.
Source for this? None is given. I had no idea the canon was decided at Nicea. Oh wait. It wasn’t. Will we see citations from the church fathers soon? I sure hope so. Keep in mind Clement, the disciple of Peter, and Polycarp, the disciple of John, both spoke highly of Paul.
For instance, consider this from 1 Clement.
Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle.
Or what Polycarp said in Polycarp 3:2
For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the
wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you
taught face to face with the men of that day the word which
concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent,
wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye
shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you,
And in 11:3
But I have not found any such thing in you, neither have heard
thereof, among whom the blessed Paul labored, who were his
letters in the beginning. For he boasteth of you in all those
churches which alone at that time knew God; for we knew Him not as
Yep. Great war going on there.
Moving on with Hash:
For instance, Paul said: “Yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Torah but through the faith of Jesus Christ, even we believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Torah, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the Torah.” Galatians 2:16
Yaqov poignantly rebuked this statement, saying: “What does it profit, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, and doesn’t have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it doesn’t have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17
Paul and James are speaking to two different situations. Paul is speaking of righteousness before God. James is speaking of our righteousness as displayed before man. James is telling us that if you just say “I have faith” with no actions to back it, one can really question that you have faith.
In 2 Corinthians 12:16, Paul makes a perplexing, yet revealing, statement: “But be it so, I did not burden you: being crafty, I took you in by deceit.”
Does Christianity accept “taking in by deceit” as a means of “ministering,” and propagandizing?
Ever heard of sarcasm? Paul is using it. He’s stating something that’s obviously not true so his audience will realize it. Leave it to a site like Hash to totally miss the point. Paul is saying that he in fact did not do what it is that the super-apostles at Corinth were doing.
The Torah, the “Law,” which Paul mocked and considered a “yoke” and “bondage,” says: “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Leviticus 19:11
Where does Paul say this? We aren’t told. We’re just told that he does. This despite the fact that in Romans 7, he affirms the goodness of the Law.
We find more disagreement supposedly between Paul and James which I believe has been dealt with. Then we find the complaint that Paul never met Jesus in person, which has what to do with the price of tea in China, I have no idea. I can just as easily say Hash hasn’t met Jesus in person nor have I, so therefore we have no authority on what Jesus taught? This despite the fact that in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is very careful to distinguish his words from the Jesus tradition.
What do we find next?
In short, the case against Paul doesn’t look too good. Aside from being named out rightly in the Habakkuk Pesher of the Qumran “Dead Sea Scrolls” and found consonantally named in the Book of Habakkuk (which, recall, didn’t have diacritical vowel marking ascribed to it until absolutely no earlier than the 6th century C.E., and possibly not until the 10th or 11th century), Paul was also blind in the right eye, fitting the Book of Zechariah’s prophecy of the Antichrist called “the Worthless Shepherd” (Zechariah 11:17), and also the many Islaamic “Ahadeeth” (oral traditions) speaking of the “Antichrist” (Maseehu-d-Dajjaal), as being blind in the right eye.
References? Not a one. We have no idea where this is found. Blind in the right eye? News to me. Where is the scholarly information that backs this?
Beyond that, Paul was an admitted murderer who never stood trial for his crimes. He merely claimed that the “blood of Jesus” had absolved him from his sins. What civilized person would accept such a defense from admitted murderers wishing to escape justice today or 2,000 years ago?
And who would Paul have stood trial with considering the very organization that he was working for is the one that would have jurisdiction? They were ordering the murders. Paul repented. He never claimed it justified his actions. Paul is not escaping justice. He is in fact going against the system that was wanting to put Christians to death.
Interestingly, Paul himself never once admits that he was from Tarsus, Greek mythology’s entrance to “Hades” or “Sheol” in Hebrew (consonantally the same spelling as Paul’s Hebrew name “Sha’ul”). This fact is written in his biography, the book of Acts, after his mysterious disappearance and presumed death in 65 C.E. Why does Paul himself keep his Roman origins from us if not for the fact that Jews has long known from oral tradition that the Antichrist or “Armilus” was to be a “Roman Jew?”
Why should Paul spend epistles talking about his growing up? We’re not told. Where is this tradition about the antichrist being a Roman Jew? We’re not told. Hash expects us to be people of great faith obviously.
Now we also have complaints about Paul boasting, but Paul is simply using mockery and sarcasm again against his opponents. This was part of rhetoric in the ancient world. Paul himself said in 1 Cor. 13 that love does not boast.
As well, Paul admitted to theft and swindling churches. These are his own words: “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” 2 Corinthians 11:8
Once again, Paul is using sarcasm. He is being accused of using the Corinthian churches, and instead he is saying that he took money from the other churches instead. The use of robbery is again Paul being sarcastic.
Hash also shares Matthew 5:17-20 and how Jesus had said he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Supposedly in contrast to this, Paul says:
However, in utter contradiction to Jesus Christ’s affirmation of the eternal validity of the Torah, as long as Heaven and Earth are extant, Paul blasphemously claims that the Messiah came to “destroy the barrier… by abolishing in his flesh the Torah.” This alone is proof that Paul is an outright Impostor and Liar, the Great Pretender.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the Law with its commandments and regulations.” Ephesians 2:13-15
What is gone is the distinction between Jew and Gentile based on the Law so the people of God can become one. Note also that Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law, which He did. The purpose of the Law was a guardian to lead people to Christ. Now that Christ has come, the Law is no longer the identification of righteousness.
As we reach the conclusion, once again, there is nothing scholarly in what is said. There are just assertions piled upon assertions. As it turns out, there is not much to hash out with Hash.
Link to Hash is here.
Link to First Clement is here.
Link to Polycarp is here.